Missing 13-year-old Lief Courtney has been found on a houseboat on the Mooney Mooney river, about 50 metres from a public wharf.
Search volunteers reportedly hugged one another as someone shouted that the autistic teenager had been found at about 4.40pm on Thursday.
A member of the public reportedly contacted the police after bringing the boy onshore from the boat, and Leif is being treated by paramedics but has no visible signs of injury.
Leif Courtney, 13, (pictured) was last seen at his home in Mooney Mooney the NSW Central Coast at about 7.30pm on Wednesday
The large-scale search resumed for missing teen Leif Courtney on Thursday morning as SES volunteers (pictured) joined the desperate search effort
Around 150 volunteers took part in the large-scale search in dense bushland for the missing teen on Thursday
The news comes after Leif’s father Allen shared a heartbreaking letter, which said searchers could ‘tempt’ his son with apple and to ‘look up high’ because he likes to climb.
‘He is mostly non-verbal, but often makes squealing noises or repeats things he’s heard. If he’s about, he’s often noisy, so listen out,’ the letter said.
‘Don’t be worried about approaching him … Apples are one of his favourite foods, so that might tempt him. He also loves climbing, so look up high.’
‘He’s not normally worried about a crowd or noise, so don’t let that bother you,’ Mr Courtney said.
The search for Leif was suspended late Wednesday and resumed on Thursday morning
His frantic family raised the alarm shortly after he was last seen at around 7.30pm and spent the night looking for ‘Leify’ with the help of police, local residents, teachers and school friends.
He was only wearing a grey singlet and shorts, and sneakers with fluorescent green laces when he vanished from his home, which backs onto dense bushland near the Pacific Highway.
The search was suspended late Wednesday night and resumed on Thursday morning as NSW Rural Fire Service and SES volunteers joined the frantic search operation.
Search efforts are currently focused on tunnels and the M1 Motorway after Leif recently became fascinated with roads.
The Marine Area Command is scouring nearby waterways, including the Hawkesbury River as an Polair aerial search was also launched.
Train services were suspended between Gosford and Cowan in both directions for the search.
Train services have since resumed with commuters warned to expect delays.
Leif’s disappearance has rocked the tight-knit community which has rallied behind the teen’s distraught family who are reported to be ‘beside themselves’.
‘Everyone is concerned about this child. There were people out all night. I did hear people were out 20 minutes after he went missing,’ Mooney Mooney resident Steve Pearson told the Daily Telegraph.
‘I did a search through the mangroves because I have a boat out the back.’
‘I don’t think it’s a good thing to be out in this weather all night in your pyjamas.’
Police hold grave concerns for his welfare due to his age and his non-verbal autism. Pictured: a worried member of the community involved in the search
Trail biker riders and the NSW Police Dog Squad scoured dense bushland in Mooney Mooney
Locals have been advised to call the teen ‘Leify’ if they spot him.
‘His mum said to say to him ‘It’s sleepy time head on your pillow clean your teeth’,’ a local community group advised.
His family also says Leif likes apples and chickens, and his favourite song is the Owl City hit Fireflies.
Leif may also respond to noise.
‘He doesn’t communicate very well. He could be literally anywhere so we’re just going to get as many eyes out there as we can and hopefully find him,’ local volunteer Kelly Mussett told Nine News.
It’s been almost 24 hours since Leif vanished from his Mooney Mooney home. Pictured is a SES volunteer involved in the desperate search effort
Local residents (pictured right with SES volunteers) have joined the search for Leif
Police have launched an aerial search (pictured) for autistic teen Leif Courtney after he vanished from his home on Wednesday night
Leif is described as 160cm tall, slim build, shaggy blond hair and a fair complexion.
‘It is understandable the family are besides themselves,’ Acting Supt Kylie Phillips told reporters.
‘Please keep an eye out.’
Anyone who knows of Leif’s whereabouts is urged to call Brisbane Water Police on 43235511 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Leif’s disappearance comes six months after another non-verbal autistic teen William Callaghan became separated from his family during a walk at Mount Disappointment, 60km north of Melbourne.
The teen spent two nights alone before being miraculously found safe and well.
The community have joined the frantic search for autistic teen Leif Courtney. Pictured are some of the 150 volunteers involved
A heavy contingent of NSW Police officers (pictured) were part of the search operation